We are encouraging parents and carers to be aware of the signs of respiratory illnesses in young children.
Respiratory illnesses, including colds and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), are very common in young children and we see them every year. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is one of the common viruses that cause coughs and colds in winter. It is a common seasonal winter virus which causes mild respiratory infection in adults and children, but it can be severe in infants who are at increased risk of acute lower respiratory tract infection. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (an inflammatory infection of the lower airways) in children aged under two years.
We are preparing for an increase in severe respiratory illness in children, as restrictions have eased and people mix more. We have not seen this currently, however parents and carers are encouraged to look out for symptoms of severe respiratory infection in at-risk children. This includes a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever), a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, or rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).
While respiratory infections are common in children, last winter saw much fewer infections in younger people due to COVID-19 restrictions. This means that many will not have developed immunity and may be at higher risk of severe illness. We may also see more cases than in a typical season.
For the majority of children, these illnesses will not be serious and they will soon recover following rest and plenty of fluids.
Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious and clear up within two to three weeks, but parents should contact their GP or call NHS 111 if:
- Their child struggles to breathe.
- Their child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more.
- The child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above.
Some children under two, especially those born prematurely or with a heart condition, can suffer more serious consequences from these common respiratory infections.
You can find out more about the symptoms and what to do here.